REM Iowa offers variety of services to the disabled community

REM IowaMost people know REM Iowa for its assisted living residential services, but according to Lisa Pakkebier, REM Iowa’s executive director, the services the company provides touches lives in ways that were once thought of as impossible.

“Education and awareness of individuals with disabilities has helped the community become more accepting than it once was, “she said. “We continue the move towards community-based living, which allows those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to spend more time in the community through employment, community activities, and volunteer opportunities.”

REM Iowa began services in 1979 and opened its first Hiawatha home in 1989.  It now offers a variety of residential services, as well as day and vocational programs.

Staff members work with the individuals in their own homes to teach them how to complete everyday tasks such as housecleaning, laundry, shopping, and cooking. While most individuals need someone to stay with them 24/7, some may only need help with shopping or just to make sure they are taking care of themselves properly.

The individuals are provided residential services through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) or Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID).

A team of people, including the individual receiving services, family members, guardians, day program staff, REM residential staff, and other professionals involved in the life of the individual, meet to establish person centered planning.  This includes goals that will help the individual become more independent.

Sara Drish, area director for REM Iowa, said the day habilitation program is another option for individuals to develop skills that will allow them to become more independent.

Drish added that individuals who choose to spend time in the community also have the option to choose their peer group and facilitate their social activities they are involved in, as well as volunteering. .

“Individuals who are not employed, but interested in obtaining a job have the option of participating in the prevocational and job development program, which helps them build skills necessary to obtain a job,” she said.

The prevocational and job development program includes teaching individuals problem solving, following directions, punctuality, safety, customer service, as well as how to participate in an interview.

Drish said they are also taught how to use a computer to facilitate their job search, if that is their desire. “It’s all about what the individual wants to do,” she said. “They want the same things as everyone else- a job, a nice place to live, and a purpose in life. We do our best to help them obtain that.”

Drish said staff members work with individuals to figure out what kind of work is best suited for them through a discovery process.

“We work with a lot of different local organizations and offer our services to many in the community, not just the ones who utilize our residential services,” said Drish. “Some individuals live with their parents or on their own.”

REM Iowa has programs throughout Iowa, including Mount Vernon and Vinton, and recently began services in Blackhawk county.

Pakkebier said it is an important part of REM to give back to the community.  Last year they participated in National Volunteer Day and invited many associated with REM to help clean up Guthridge Park and Tucker Park.

“We are going to do it again this year, on April 25,” said Drish. “We thought it would be a good way to give back to the community and hope to see a greater turn-out this year.”

Pakkebier, who has been with REM for over 20 years, said she has learned so much from the individuals they serve.

“Not only do we help them, but we learn from them, too,” she said. “It is human nature to take what we have for granted … we should be more appreciative. The individuals we support often remind us of that.  We are blessed in many ways to be a part of their lives and their extended family.”

Drish agreed with Pakkebier. “Spending time in the community gives people a sense of purpose and strong self-esteem, adding value to their lives,” she said.  “Everyone needs to know they are valuable to the community and to the lives of others.”

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Write to the Point

As a writer, I have been conditioned to always be on the lookout for the next great story. But what I have found out, is that they are all great stories.

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